It’s very difficult for prosecutors to convict defendants in violent crime cases. #MeToo is a good example. This movement, which began in 2017, has lead to fewer than ten convictions worldwide. A few other cases settled out of court. Hundreds of men have lost their jobs over sexual abuse allegations, but in most cases, the proceedings went no further.
The four major kinds of assault cases in Georgia, which are outlined below, often have serious lack of evidence problems. Lack of evidence is not a problem in the court of public opinion. It’s not much of a problem in civil court either, since the burden of proof in that forum is so low. However, lack of proof is a serious deficiency in criminal court. Essentially, prosecutors need an almost overwhelming amount of evidence to obtain criminal convictions.
But don’t get cocky. History is replete with examples of defendants who were convicted based on little or no evidence. There are many reasons for these convictions, but lack of zealous representation is a recurring theme. So, if you are facing assault charges, you need a good Marietta criminal defense lawyer. These convictions have significant direct and collateral consequences. Furthermore, as evidenced by the lack of #MeToo convictions, there are normally effective defenses available in these cases.
In many jurisdictions, it’s difficult to distinguish between attempted murder and aggravated assault, which is discussed below. Frequently, these prosecutors rely on extraneous evidence of intent, like angry social media posts. Such evidence is often unreliable, as people often make empty threats in the heat of the moment.
Hoping to solve this problem, Georgia lawmakers tied intent to conduct in Section 16-10-32, the state’s attempted murder statute. Individuals face up to twenty years in prison if they try to kill a person under the following circumstances:
- Stopping a witness in a current judicial, administrative, or other such proceeding from testifying,
- Preventing production of documents, records, or other objects in such a proceeding, or
- Reporting supervised release (probation and parole) violations to authorities.
This statute is so specific that it only applies in very limited situations. An additional knowledge element narrows the law even further. If Mary tries to kill Katherine, authorities cannot charge Mary with attempted murder just because she happens to be a witness in a criminal case. Mary must know Katherine is a witness. And, she must try to kill her to silence her, not because Mary is angry or for any other reason.
This offense is normally a felony. Prosecutors usually press such charges if the defendant seriously injured the victim or used a weapon during the assault.
Normally, “serious injury” means putting someone in the hospital. Treatment in an emergency room for something like a deep cut or a broken nose may qualify in some cases. As for the weapon requirement, pretty much any household object, even a frying pan or a coffee mug, could be a weapon, if the defendant used it as such.
Prosecutors are extremely aggressive in assault claims. They usually try to upgrade ordinary assault cases to aggravated assault cases if at all possible. For example, if the police report mentions that a gun or golf club was within the defendant’s reach, the state normally presses aggravated assault charges, even though the defendant didn’t actually use the weapon.
The mental state could be hard to prove as well. Typically, aggravated assault is a specific intent crime. The defendant must intend the conduct (hitting the alleged victim) and the result (seriously injuring the alleged victim).
Normally, voluntary intoxication is not a defense to criminal activity, although by definition, intoxicated individuals have lost control of their mental or physical faculties. But voluntary intoxication is a defense to specific intent crimes. Intoxicated individuals cannot mentally process the dual intent required in these cases.
For the same reason, mental defect could also be a defense in aggravated assault and other specific intent crimes. This principle could also apply to defendants under 25, since the brain is not fully developed at this age.
Basically, ordinary assault is an intentional touch that is harmful or offensive. Note that there’s a big difference between “intentional” and “malicious.” Intentional basically mans non-accidental. This touch must cause injury. That “injury” could be soreness or pretty much anything.
Earlier, we discussed the fact that prosecutors love to enhance charges when possible. The ordinary assault to aggravated assault leap is very common in these cases. Additionally, prosecutors often use Georgia’s new hate crime enhancement. This law became effective in June 2020. If a defendant targets a person based on his/her race, gender, religion, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, mental disability, or physical disability, a misdemeanor penalty could double. In other words, ordinary assault becomes aggravated assault, at least for sentencing purposes.
Interestingly, “hate” is not an element of the hate crimes law. This fact could lead to misuse. Assume Richard only mugs women because he assumes they are less likely to fight back. Technically, Richard could be charged with a hate crime for intentionally targeting people based on their gender.
Witness cooperation is frequently an issue as well. Domestic abuse charges are a good example. Back in ye olden days, spouses could assert an evidentiary privilege and refuse to testify against their spouses. If that happened, prosecutors dropped the charges. Lawmakers closed this loophole a number of years ago. Although alleged victims cannot “drop” criminal assault charges, if they are uncooperative for whatever reason, prosecutors often lose interest in the case. Additionally, alleged victims are not professional witnesses. So, Marietta criminal defense lawyers can often undermine their testimonies during cross-examination.
Assault by Contact
In terms of criminal penalties, ABC is the lowest form of assault in Georgia. It has roughly the same effect as a traffic ticket. As a result, ABC often doesn’t have the same immigration and other collateral consequences that more serious forms of assault usually include.
Essentially, ABC is an intentional assault which doesn’t cause injury. Frequently, this offense is a fallback offense. If prosecutors press more serious charges that they know they cannot prove in court, they often agree to reduce these charges to ABC.
Criminal assault cases are very complex. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Home and jail visits are available.